Lt. Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf's return from Vietnam was fraught with unhappy encounters. He was insulted several times while speaking to civic groups and other audiences, even to the point of being asked whether he had "napalmed babies."
He considered leaving the service and looking for a job in the civilian sector. "I don't need this gaff," he recalls telling others. But eventually Schwarzkopf was able to come to terms with Vietnam's aftermath, recognizing that "if I didn't, it would destroy me."The next few years brought a variety of assignments for the Schwarzkopfs as their family grew. Daughter Cynthia was born in 1970 and daughter Jessica two years later. A son, Christian, came along in 1977. During the years from mid-1970 to 1983, the family lived mainly in the Washington area. But there were numerous moves - to Fort Richardson, Alaska, where Col. Schwarzkopf was deputy commander of an infantry brigade; Fort Lewis, Wash., where he commanded a brigade of the 9th Infantry Division; and to Hawaii, where he was deputy director of plans for the U.S. Pacific Command. While there, Brenda Schwarzkopf proudly assisted with the formal pinning on of his first star.
In all this time, Schwarzkopf never quit soul-searching on the matter of Vietnam and the doubts it had raised in his mind. He had told the author of "Friendly Fire" that at some point he might have to stop and ask himself whether an order he had been given was worth it.
In 1986, while at Fort Lewis, he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that he had come to terms with this during the Grenada invasion three years earlier.
"I thought a lot about the role of the military and the role of the Army and my place in it after the Vietnam War, as I think any professional who had any sensitivity at all had to do," Schwarzkopf told a P-I reporter. "I was able to reconcile my role in the military and also the role of the military in regard to the country.
"The bottom line of all that is that the country can never dare risk having a military that, when asked to carry out legitimate orders, is given the option of refusing those orders. I think that places the country in a very dangerous position.
"If they think they would ever turn an order down, the morally correct thing to do is choose another profession," he said.
One Sunday in October 1983, Brenda has recalled, the general came home and said: "I have to go. I can't tell you where." He was gone, and two days later she learned, along with the rest of the country, that U.S. forces had invaded Grenada.
When Schwarzkopf got the word to saddle up, he thought at first he was headed to Lebanon, where a U.S. Marine barracks had been blown up by a truck bomb the day before. His Grenada assignment was to serve as the Army's chief adviser to Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf III, the invasion's commander.
Schwarzkopf recalls that while on the way to Grenada, he had misgivings as to whether the United States should be committing its military forces to that particular cause. "I asked myself why on earth the U.S. was getting involved in Grenada. Then I said, Schwarzkopf, just let it sort itself out. You're an instrument of policy. You don't make policy."
On the second day on the island he became convinced that the mission was justified. Flying in to the capital of St. George, he saw some words scrawled on a wall. "I have seen that sign on walls all over the world - in Berlin, Vietnam, Tokyo and even on the walls of the Pentagon. It always says something like `Long live Marxism' or `Down with the U.S.,' but as the helicopter got closer and I could read it, I saw that it said, `God Bless America.' "
Later on, the images of the American medical students arriving back in the United States and dropping to their knees to kiss the ground helped him to become "100 percent sure we did the right thing in Grenada.
"First of all it was healthy for the military to have been involved in an operation that the American public has resoundingly endorsed," he said. "Also, it was very good to be involved in an operation that was recognized by everyone as a very successful one, given the recent history of the armed forces in Korea, which some people considered a tie, and Vietnam, which others felt was a defeat."
Although judged a qualified military success, Grenada would have its own kind of fallout. The decision by Metcalf to bar the press for the first part of the operation had outraged the news media. Many reporters had managed to make it to the island on their own; some were rounded up and detained by military officials after they stepped ashore. To many military people it was simply a case of the press getting what it deserved after Vietnam. To the media, of course, it was blatant censorship, running counter to the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment and the American public's "right to know."
Eventually the dispute shifted to dialogue, as journalists and generals sat down in Washington to search for ways to accommodate each other's needs and priorities in time of war. The result was the "media pool" system. Eight years later, it would be put to its biggest test in the Saudi desert.
From the book SCHWARZKOPF: THE MAN, THE MISSION AND THE TRIUMPH
Copyright 1991 Richard Pyle
Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Penguin Books U.S.A. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate